Old meets new

Old meets new

I like contrasts. Mixing different textures, patterns or colours. Combining the old with the new. Like in a typical Japanese urban landscape, where skyscrapers "snuggle" with old temples. And more generally in Japanese culture, which cultivates tradition in such a successful way that it's never fusty. I am always fascinated by the results of the work of architects who - with great care, respect and creativity - are able to write a new history for old interiors without overstepping in any direction. My admiration for their work is all the greater in view of the fact that these projects are fraught with the risk of many complications and surprises. They're full of hidden limitations and are often subject to conservation supervision, which imposes a rigid framework.


I have a great pleasure of working, in a double role - as a PR and marketing person, but also as an interior designer - on the revitalisation project of the former seat of the Faculty of Pharmacy of Wrocław University, which has been renamed L'UNI (from the French word "l'université"). Maćków Pracownia Projektowa takes care of the revitalization of the building. My role is to provide interior design support for the common parts - the main hall, mezzanines and storey -1. I don't want to devote the whole post exclusively to L'UNI, as it will be subject to a separate article. I will only say that L'UNI office building is located in the very heart of Wrocław, in the Cultural Park of the city, in the zone strictly supervised by the conservation officer. However, the historic façade may be a bit misleading, because its spacious, ultra-high interiors packed with technology and "green" solutions are no different from the contemporary standards of the best new office investments. We were faced with a breakneck task of designing the common areas in such a way as to preserve the historical elements of the interior on the one hand, and give it a modern, timeless character on the other. We wanted this space to meet the requirements of both employees of a law firm and a modern technology company. The aesthetic solution we used was provisionally called "noble simplicity". It assumes the use of quality and beautifully aged materials such as stone, metal and glass in an economical, sometimes even ascetic form, allowing the beauty of historical details to come out, such as the beautiful fan-shaped staircase. Its curves are repeated in the gigantic simple round chandelier or the illuminated round mirror on floor -1. The whole is complemented by a lift designed especially for L'UNI - seemingly very modern, made of glass and metal, but inspired by pre-war lifts, which can be felt in its atmosphere.

And this, for me, is the essence of a successful marriage of an old interior with modern elements. You may see that the materials used are new, the forms are sometimes more modern, simple, the colours or fabrics more contemporary, but the whole harmoniously blends together and still takes you back in time to the past. In the gallery on the left you will see several interiors or projects that are examples of such successful combinations. I am very happy that I can observe more and more of them in Warsaw, or more broadly in Poland (Łódź is probably the leader here). New spaces are being successfully revitalised and "given back" to the inhabitants, such as - in the case of Warsaw - the Powiśle Power Station, Prudential, Hala Koszyki, Hala Gwardia, the Norblin Factory or the complex on Burakowska street and the Duchnicka lofts, in the direct vicinity of which I have the pleasure of living. It's great to spend time in surroundings which are steeped in history and which have been given an accessible and beautiful form. Especially that I can still remember from my childhood how bad they used to look, excluding whole parts of the city from public use. And the best thing about revitalisations is that the same effect can be successfully achieved in private recesses.

New meets old

Contrasts make interiors more interesting. I perceive it as a certain depth they gain thanks to them, as if there was an additional dimension, a deeper breath. And meaning. Because I see sense and beauty in preserving traces of history. But I am also aware that what is old is usually of better quality than what we have to deal with today. Take, for example, solid wood furniture or even partially veneered furniture. Sometimes they look so worn out that land on the rubbish heap. Far too quickly. As someone who was born in the 1980s and who's character was shaped in Eastern Europe, I grew up in a world which, after a period of emptiness on the shop shelves, became too enamoured with quantity and forgot about quality. And yet, it is enough to "peel" the old from the top coat of old varnish and cracks to discover fresh, bright smelling wood. And start all over again. This is why I love old furniture. Plastic-covered clapboard has no chance for a second life and litter the planet Earth. You can see on the left how I saved an old Polish chair in the style of British Windsor from extinction. It was really poor, covered with remnants of white paint, soaked, with a layer of plywood falling off the seat. And today it is bright, fragrant and smooth as silk, standing in my daughter's room and serving us both.

But let's come back to the subject of interiors. New interiors, which are only furnished with novelty, are in my opinion 'flat'. Literally and metaphorically they are "dry". It's harder to breathe in them than in brick buildings. However, not all of us can or want to live in old tenement houses. Therefore, it is worth complementing such modern interiors with furniture and accessories with history. I have an impression that they give off their natural moisture to the air. Above all, it is worth taking care that the reality we create in the new interior is also of high quality. So let's choose wood, leather, metal and stone, which can be restored many times and left for future generations. Old interiors and furniture were once new, too. If our ancestors had bought clapboard with a plastic veneer, what would still be there today?

A breathtaking (at least for me) combination of old and new, the Gabriel chandelier by the Bouroullec brothers at Versailles. The only comment I can think of when I see this installation is "the ultimate sophistication". Via Dezeen.